Best Fine Dining Option -- Oahu
My parents will be in Oahu in June. I would like to buy them a gift certificate to the best fine dining restaurant. At first glance, I'm thinking La Mer. I see Hunt recommends requesting a table overlooking the House Without a Key and dining at show time. Any other suggestions? Thanks!
It seems, from my regular reading of this board, the top options for fine dining in Honolulu have remained the same for quite a few years:
and then some throw in places like:
Hau Tree Lanai
Michel's at the Colony
and a bunch of others.
There are LOTS of threads describing all these places if you dig a little bit, but you'd probably get a better response if you described in more detail what kind of experience you are wanting for you parents, e.g what kind of cuisine, quiet and refined or boisterous and energetic, beachside or a view, chef's tasting menu, etc etc.
Of those, I have not dined at Azure (but it gets great reviews from respected posters, so it MUST be good), and I can recommend the rest. Now, I had a less-than-great experience at Michel's, BUT that was but one trip, and others here tell me that I really must try them again. I will do just that, as I trust those posters, and they do have more experience, than I do.
For me, it would be, and probably in this order:
Orchids (have done their brunch, but have many respected suggestions on dinner there)
Hau Tree (a bit less "fine dining," but they HAVE come thru for me many times)
Most of all, enjoy!
PS - At La Mer, I am a big, big fan of one of the tables, overlooking HWAK (House Without a Key), though the Pacific-view tables are nice. One just cannot go too far wrong, with a great Hawaiian "review" down below their table, in such a lovely setting.
La Mer gets the highest ratings over the longest period of time. It is a superb restaurant prepared in a 'modern' French style. Even the menu is largely in French. The setting is wonderful, especially with the view that Hunt recommends. They have a menu on their website.
Having said that, there are excellent French restaurants everywhere. If you want something with a more regional bent, then Alan Wong's would be your best choice. Mavro after that. No doubt your parents will have a stunning meal at any of the three.
Since I always troll this board before one of our trips to Oahu (we'll be there for the entire month of May this time), I figure I might as well put my 2cents in on this, having eaten at most of the listed places. Since we're New Yawkers (well, Brooklyn actually), I'll give some NYC reference points in case you're familiar:
La Mer: far and away, the best combination of food and ambience, leading to the biggest effect ("bang for the buck")... especially for a gift. It's the most impressive/beautiful place to eat, with the water right there, the island feel all around you, music outside (follow Hunt's advice about the table overlooking HWAK during show time) & excellently prepared classic food. I'd liken it to Le Bernadin (although maybe a notch below in actual cooking, makes up for it in room/ambience)
Alan Wong: our favorite place. Especially for folks who love the workings of a restaurant, from the well run open kitchen to the idea of a creative chef turning out top of the line food. However, although the room is classy, it's more like an inner city (Philly, NYC...) type place with a local menu. But, if your parents are into this, get them counter seats at the open kitchen and have them eat the tasting menu. I'd liken it to Hearth, although Wong's food is probably a notch better.
Mavro: the chef's the thing. It's his show and everything is geared to him presenting a very fine dining experience to his patrons. Reminds me more of upscale Michellin dining than anything else. Maybe compare to Daniel or Bouley?
Hau Tree Lanai: if what your parents want is atmosphere, this is on the water (get an outside table under the trees for them) with the lights of the city in the distance and it can be magical. The food is very good but its not anywhere near the above places (in NYC, they'd all get 3 or 4 stars and this place would be a very high 2 star that could make 3 if lucky). We go there every trip but its not our top line place. River Cafe/Water Club equivalent?
Michel's: mixed opinions on this classic French place. Well worth the money, but is a mid 3 star at most. Warning: can be uneven in execution. Some nights magical, one felt very much time worn with them going thru the motions.
Roy's: I'm not a fan.
Hope this is helpful. Certainly got me excited to be coming back.
Now, AW's has a lovely "open kitchen," but to get the full effect, one needs to sit at the Chef's Counter. That can be a tad confining, but to me, it's worth the lack of table real estate, especially as the chefs spend a bunch of time talking, over that counter. Still, it is not for everyone.
We recently dined at AW (King St.) and chose a table, for the first time in some years, but then we wanted to have a conversation with our guest, so we found that worthwhile. Had it just been my lovely wife, and me, we'd have done the Counter, for the 20th time.
Does anyone want to toss Hoku's into the mix. When it was new it was all the rage, and the food was wonderful. I haven't been in a few years, and it doesn't generate much chatter. Would anyone put this on the list to consider?
and look at that, joebob and I in total agreement above. Excellent summary Steve R.
keep in mind that la mer is currently closed for renovations...i would check to see if they're scheduled to be open in june!